Thursday AM November 2nd, 2006

Wood Mackenzie report indicates Arctic can no longer be considered as long-term strategic energy supply source...Marathon Oil selling 90 percent stake in two Syrian natural gas fields...Houston group launches magazine targeting Mexican visitors...

Wood Mackenzie has assessed the oil and gas potential of the Arctic region in a new report. Andrew Latham, the group's vice president of energy consulting, says the Arctic can no longer be considered as a long-term strategic energy supply source.

"And what we found is that there are very significant opportunities to have oil and gas companies to develop reserves, but in terms of overall world oil supply, the Arctic is not as large as many had hoped. What you're talking about is a geological assessment, so the geologists are looking at data from drilling, data from seismic, data from outcrops of rocks and making judgments about the extent of different sedimentary basins that might be prospective for oil and gas."

Latham says there are five countries with territory in the Arctic.

"Those are in the U.S./Alaska, Canada, Norway, Russia and Greenland, and all five of those have intriguing potential. At the overall scale, the Arctic is a significant--but not a huge--new supply of crude oil, so any government that is interested in security supply issues and is wondering where it's going to be importing its oil supplies from in the next 20 or 30 years needs to understand that the Arctic is somewhere that will maybe supply three percent of global oil supply, not 25 percent."

Wood Mackenzie Senior Petroleum Analyst Alan Murray from Edinburgh says having five countries drilling in the Arctic should improve access to resources in that region.

"All of the countries, the five countries that we refer to are countries that are pro- oil and gas exploration. Canada, Alaska, Norway and Russia all have very large oil and gas industries, and Greenland is actively promoting itself as a potential frontier for the next ten, 20 years. The fact that all these countries are in favor of exploration, I think, is a positive, and it means that that should improve access--and broadly--to the regions of the Arctic."

Murray says reports like the Wood Mackenzie "Future of the Arctic" report serves as an independent viewpoint for the major oil companies operating in the far north.

"I think the companies all have very strong analysis of their own in the areas that they're interested in. What they find valuable in a study such as this is a consistent third party view. It's very valuable for them to have a benchmark. There will be as many opinions in the different opportunities as there are companies looking at them, and, but I think they've welcomed this study as an opportunity to have an independent viewpoint."

The report summarizes that the United States can no longer consider the Arctic as a long-term strategic energy supply source, noting significantly less oil but more gas than previous estimations had suggested. The study says remote gas is often much harder to transport to markets, and there are still technology restraints.

Marathon Oil is selling its 90 percent stake in two Syrian natural gas fields to Petro-Canada in a $46 million deal, according to the Houston Business Journal. Petro-Canada will have the option to purchase the remaining ten percent stake from Marathon within five years.

Todo magazine has been launched by a Houston-based company targeting Mexican national visitors. The publication is delivered monthly to upscale 55,000 households in Mexico City, Monterrey and Merida through newspapers. The magazine features articles on destinations for shopping, entertainment and dining, fashion, health and beauty news, events calendars and maps for Houston, San Antonio, Austin and Dallas.

Aeromexico is adding a third daily non-stop flight to Mexico City beginning November 6th. The new two-hour flight will depart daily at 7 a.m., and the return flight departs from Mexico City at 6:50 p.m.

Ground has been broken on a 13-story office building in west Houston--the first large-scale speculative office building in the Energy Corridor in the last six years. Dallas-based Trammell Crow and Principal Real Estate Developers are building in Woodcreek Park at the northeast corner of Eldridge Parkway and the Katy Freeway. The joint venture between the two companies plans to develop $500 million in office projects across the country over the next two years.

A split decision on October sales for two of the big three U.S. automakers. Ford posted an 8.1 percent increase in sales, powered by a 22 percent surge on the car side, making up for a flat showing in trucks. The automaker says double-digit increases for the new Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator helped keep light trucks from showing a decline. DaimlerChrysler, meanwhile, registered a decline in domestic auto sales on weaker volume from its Chrysler group. Overall sales were down 1.6 percent, with sales in the Chrysler group--which includes the namesake and Jeep and Dodge brands—down 3.2 percent. Industry leader general motors reports its sales later today.

A sixth consecutive decline in home building sent overall construction spending lower in September. The Commerce Department says outlays for spending on construction projects dropped by three-tenths percent--the fifth month in which construction has either declined or been flat. Spending for new home construction was down 1.1 percent, a further reflection of the steep slump in the once booming sector. It's the longest stretch of weakness in residential construction in more than a decade. Overall private-sector construction spending dropped by seven-tenths percent, while spending for government construction projects rose three-tenths percent.

Adjustable-rate mortgages can let you afford that dream house. But when it's time for that rate to change, that dream can become a nightmare. Thirty-six percent of people with adjustable-rate mortgages surveyed for an AP AOL real estate poll say they worry that they won't be able to afford their monthly mortgage payments if their interest rates increase. Nearly a quarter of homeowners, 24 percent, have adjustable rate mortgages, or arms. Scott Klimek of Brighton, Colorado, is one of them. He has four years to go on the five-year arm that let him get out of a townhouse. He says he'd be "really '' worried if this were year five, but even now he's "moderately worried.''

Here's a forecast for holiday sales this year to post a respectable increase. Ernst and Young forecasts a rise of 6.5 percent over last year. It says consumer electronics will be the hottest single category for gifts this season, including ipods, digital cameras and high-definition televisions. Ernst and Young, which advises retail and consumer products companies, says Internet sales should rise 20 percent over last year, accounting for about three percent of all holiday sales. A slightly more conservative forecast for holiday sales is coming from the retail industry's main trade group. The National Retail Federation looks for a rise of five percent over last year.

Blockbuster is looking to boost traffic in its stores and get its online rentals back at the same time. The largest video rental chain says customers who rent their DVDs online can return them at a Blockbuster store and receive a free in-store movie rental. The new program called TotalAccess is a move to compete better against larger online rental rival Netflix. Dallas-based Blockbuster says it will automatically upgrade all current and new online rental subscribers to the program at no extra cost. Online renters can still return movies through the mail, but if they bring them to the store they get a free in-store movie rental. TotalAccess subscribers will also receive a free coupon for a free in-store rental each month. Blockbuster recently had about one and a-half million online subscribers. Netflix expects to have 6.3 million subscribers before the new year, having added nearly a-half million subscribers in the last quarter alone.

Environmentalists and the Bush White House are teaming up at the Supreme Court. Both are defending a clean air program that dates back to 1980. On the other side is Duke Energy--on the question of whether it has to put expensive pollution controls on its coal-fired plants. A lawyer for Duke told the court that government regulators suddenly changed their interpretation of the rules and sued the company. The government and the environmental groups contend Duke and other utilities have long understood how the program works, but didn't comply. Duke appeared to get a boost from Justice Antonin Scalia, who calls it a "bit of an exaggeration'' to say the rules were always interpreted the way the government says they were.

Delegates from trade unions worldwide have launched a new global labor federation aimed at ensuring that workers' rights are not forgotten in the rush toward economic globalization. Organizers say the International Trade Union Confederation--formerly known as the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions--will reinvent and modernize itself. That will enable it to better tackle fresh challenges to the rights of unionized workers and to strengthen its efforts to stamp out forced and child labor. The new confederation brings together a wide and diverse range of major labor unions, including Britain's trades union congress, the United States' AFL-CIO and dozens of other labor groups from five continents. It will boast 150 million members. Its charter approved today decries violations of what members insist is a universal right to strike for better pay and working conditions and engage in collective bargaining.

A federal judge in Tennessee has granted class action status to a wage-related lawsuit against Tyson Foods. The suit alleges the company depressed wages by hiring illegal immigrants at eight plants in Tennessee, Alabama, Indiana, Missouri, Virginia and Texas. Tyson workers attorney Howard Foster says he's seeking damages for thousands of workers. An attorney for Arkansas-based Tyson, Roger Dickson of Chattanooga, declined comment--saying he has not had a chance to read the judge's order. The ruling set a January 29th conference with attorneys. A federal jury in 2003 acquitted Tyson Foods and three former managers of conspiring to hire illegal immigrants from Mexico and Central America for low-wage production jobs. Two former Tyson managers made plea deals and received probation.

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